How Do I Know If I Need To Take Vitamin Supplements
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Depending on your diet, you may need to take certain supplements to cover off nutrients you arent getting from food.
How do I know if I need to take vitamin supplements? Are there some I should take every day to be healthy?
There are a few reasons you might need to take a supplement. Depending on your diet, you may need to take certain supplements to cover off nutrients you aren’t getting from food.
Or, if a blood test shows you are deficient in a certain nutrient , a supplement will be required to replenish your body’s stores.
In some cases, nutritional supplements are used to help treat certain health conditions. Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms. Fish oil is also taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides .
There are four daily essentials you might need to bridge nutritional gaps in your diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids . I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients. For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a one-a-day supplement helps boost iron intake.
If you need to supplement your diet with calcium, I typically recommend products made from calcium citrate, which provide 300 to 350 milligrams per tablet.
Problems Focusing Or Thinking Clearly
Like fatigue, brain fog is another relatively common symptom of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The most common culprit in focusing and cognitive problems is vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 helps your body produce chemicals called neurotransmitters that serve as messengers between your nerves. When your levels of B12 are low, your levels of these chemicals can also decline, and that means cognitive functions can be impaired. In addition to these symptoms, a vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause problems like fatigue, difficulty coordinating walking and other movements, mood changes and paranoia, and even hallucinations if levels are very low. Vitamin B12 is not found in plant food sources, so vegans tend to be at a significantly increased risk for this deficiency.
How Do I Supplement
Get your vitamin A levels checked with the best micronutrient testing in the world. This micronutrient test analyzes the level of micronutrients that are in your blood and also the level in your cells .
If you think you could have a deficiency, its important to get your blood and cellular levels measured.
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Do Multivitamins Contain Minerals
The best multivitamins also contain minerals that are essential to health and well-being. Some of the most important minerals include:
Zinc this mineral helps your immune system fight off viruses and bacteria that cause infections, helps wounds heal, and helps your body make proteins, and make DNA
Iodine your body uses iodine to make thyroid hormones that control the body’s metabolism and other functions
Selenium this mineral plays a critical role in reproduction, helps your body use thyroid hormones and create DNA, and helps protect your cells from infection and damage from oxidative stress
Manganese your body uses manganese to make energy, protect your cells from damage, and for reproduction, strong bones, blood clotting, and a healthy immune system
Chromium this mineral may help your body use fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that you get from the food you eat
Molybdenum the human body uses molybdenum to process proteins and genetic material, such as DNA this mineral also helps your body break down drugs and any toxic substances that may enter your body
As with vitamins, many Americans do not get optimal amounts of the minerals they need, and this can leave them vulnerable to a wide variety of health issues. Taking a multivitamin can help you get the vitamins and minerals you need for peak health and wellness.
Path To Improved Health
Try to incorporate more of these nutrients in your daily diet. Its best to get these nutrients through food, instead of just taking a multivitamin. This is because it is easier for your body to absorb micronutrients through food.
If you are unable to get all the nutrients you need from food alone, ask your doctor if dietary supplements are right for you.
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Supplements: Check The Dose
Chances are, the unfortified foods you eat aren’t a problem. “It’s pretty hard to overdo it from food alone,” says Johanna Dwyer, RD, a senior research scientist with the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.
So you’ll want to think about the supplements you take and fortified foods or drinks.
“Most people don’t realize there’s no real advantage to taking more than the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals, and they don’t recognize there may be disadvantages,” Dwyer says.
“If you’re taking a supplement, stick to one that’s no more than the daily value,” Dwyer says.
Talk with your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, including vitamins and minerals, and the dose you’re taking, too. That way, your doctor can help you keep doses in a safe range.
“If you’re taking a basic multivitamin, there’s no need to fear taking too much,” says Andrew Shao, PhD, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for the supplements industry.
“Most multivitamins have such a wide margin of safety that even when you’re combining them with fortified foods, it’s still not going to cause you to keel over,” Shao says.
How Do You Take Vitamins
If youve chosen a chewable gummy or tablet, then the answer to this question is simple: chew the supplement as you would food. Water is not required for taking chewable or gummy supplements.
If youre taking a swallowable supplement, the answer is trickier, especially if youre someone who doesnt like swallowing tablets and capsules. Research has shown that the easiest way to swallow a pill depends on whether your vitamin is in capsule or tablet form.
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What Is Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency means that you do not have enough vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is unique because your skin actually produces it by using sunlight. Fair-skinned individuals and those who are younger convert sunshine into vitamin D far better than those who are darker-skinned and over age 50.
Cracks And Sores In Your Mouth
Possible deficiency: B12
If your body needs more B12, you may notice that youre getting ulcer-like lesions in your mouth or cracks on the sides. I see people come in with this who have a B12 deficiency, says Wagner. To correct that, shell look into a possible supplement, as well as advise adding more B12 sources into the diet. Get more poultry, red meat, and eggs. If youre vegetarian, its a bit more of a challenge, but its doable with fortified foods, like non-dairy milk, cereal, and nutritional yeast. Here are more nutrients you could be missing if youre vegetarian or vegan.
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Vitamin And Mineral Supplements Can Be Dangerous
Proper balance and adequate levels of essential nutrients is important for a range of complex processes in our body. When vitamins are taken as supplements, they are introduced into the body at levels that could never be achieved by eating even the healthiest of diets.
Supplementation can also result in large doses of a single vitamin being eaten alone. When vitamins are consumed from foods, they have many companions to help them along the way. For instance, provitamin A in food is accompanied by hundreds of its carotenoid relatives.
Simply taking a vitamin pill is not an instant fix for feeling run down or lacking in energy. It is the combination of a whole range of compounds in foods that gives us the protection . When you artificially remove one of them and provide it completely out of context, it may not be as effective and, in the case of some vitamins, can have negative effects.
Vitamins and mineral supplements can also interfere with prescription medicines and medical treatments. In extreme cases, for example, where people take 100 times the recommended dietary intake , this can stop the work of anticonvulsant drugs, such as those used in epilepsy.
What Vitamins Should You Take Daily
It is estimated that about half of American adults take some type of vitamin or mineral supplement.
People might take supplements if they know theyre missing a certain food group, says Patton. Others might take supplements for the antioxidant benefits or because they know they dont eat fruits and vegetables. Some people may have a true deficiency.
Everyones vitamin needs are different, so its a good idea to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before starting to take supplements. They can help you decide which products to take, or if you need to take any at all. Your doctor and pharmacist can also tell you if a supplement would interact badly with any medications you are taking, which may cause health problems.
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What Other Factors Can Lead To Vitamin D Deficiency
- Age: The skin’s ability to make vitamin D lessens with age.
- Mobility: People who are homebound or are rarely outside are not able to use sun exposure as a source of vitamin D.
- Skin color: Dark-colored skin is less able to make vitamin D than fair-colored skin.
- Human breast milk: A woman’s breast milk only contains a small amount of vitamin D. Often infant formulas also only include a small amount of D also. Therefore infants are at risk of not receiving enough vitamin D. This is especially true for infants who are only fed breast milk.
Bruising On Your Legs
Possible deficiency: Vitamin C
If you merely bump into something and wind up with an enormous bruise, consider if youre getting enough C. Vitamin C helps make collagen, which is involved in making blood vessels. Bruising often may be a sign that you have weakened capillaries that allow you to bruise, says Small. Whats more, stress saps your supply of vitamin C, meaning you may need more than you think. Strawberries, broccoli, and mango are all foods that have more C than an orange. Here are some more signs youre running low on vitamin C.
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Supplements Containing Vitamins A C And D
Children aged 6 months to 5 years should take vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
Find out more about vitamins for children or ask your health visitor for advice.
A GP may also recommend supplements if you need them for a medical condition. For example, you may be prescribed iron supplements to treat iron deficiency anaemia.
The 13 Essential Vitamins
At the most basic level, vitamins are essential organic substances your bodys cells require to function, grow, develop and heal properly. There are 13 essential vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins, B6, B12, biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine. A major deficiency in any one of these vitamins could lead to serious health problems.
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How To Increase Vitamin B12 Levels
Food: When possible, it is always best to get your nutrients through food. Foods highest in B12 include beef liver, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, lamb, salmon, eggs, and milk products.
Supplementation: The route of delivery and type of supplement you use depends on a few different factors. If you are significantly deficient and symptomatic, you will benefit most from intramuscular injections of B12 initially.
In our practice, we prefer using sublingual B12 versus oral B12 because some patients have difficulty absorbing oral B12 as a result of low stomach acid, impaired intrinsic factor, or intestinal inflammation. When using sublingual B12, we prefer methylcobalamin versus cyanocobalamin because methylcobalamin is the active form used in the body, whereas cyanocobalamin must be converted prior to use in the body.
Who May Be At Risk For A Nutrient Deficiency
For those who eat a healthful diet, a multivitamin may have little or no benefit. A diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good protein sources, and healthful fats should provide most of the nutrients needed for good health. But not everyone manages to eat a healthful diet. When it comes to specific vitamins and minerals, some Americans get less than adequate amounts, according to criteria set by the National Academy of Medicine. For example, more than 90% of Americans get less than the Estimated Average Requirement for vitamin D and vitamin E from food sources alone.
Certain groups are at higher risk for a nutrient deficiency:
A note on vitamin D
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How Often Do You Need To Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked
Doctors do not usually order routine checks of vitamin D levels, but they might need to check your levels if you have certain medical conditions or risk factors for vitamin D deficiency. Sometimes vitamin D levels can be checked as a cause of symptoms such as long-lasting body aches, a history of falls or bone fractures without significant trauma.
Supplements May Dangerously Interact With Medications You Take
Some supplements can reduce the effectiveness of certain medications or result in side effects — talk to your doctor about supplements if you take medications.
If you currently take prescription or over-the-counter medications regularly, you should talk with your doctor about drug-nutrient interactions.
A drug-nutrient interaction is any reaction that occurs between a vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, electrolyte or other nutrient and a medication. A drug-supplement interaction is any reaction that occurs between a supplement and a medication.
Good intentions to supplement your diet with vitamins, minerals and herbs can backfire and cause complications. Take these examples:
- Consuming too much vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as a coagulant, can interfere with warfarin, a blood thinner.
- St. John’s Wort, a popular supplement used to treat depression, can lead to serotonin syndrome if taken in conjunction with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors .
- Kava, an herbal supplement used to treat anxiety, has several potential drug interactions, including antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and diuretics.
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Poor Night Vision And White Growths On The Eyes
A nutrient-poor diet can sometimes cause vision problems.
For instance, low intakes of vitamin A are often linked to a condition known as night blindness, which reduces peoples ability to see in low light or darkness.
Thats because vitamin A is necessary to produce rhodopsin, a pigment found in the retinas of the eyes that helps you see at night.
When left untreated, night blindness can progress to xerophthalmia, a condition that can damage the cornea and ultimately lead to blindness .
Another early symptom of xerophthalmia is Bitots spots, which are slightly elevated, foamy, white growths that occur on the conjunctiva or white part of the eyes.
The growths can be removed to a certain extent but only fully disappear once the vitamin A deficiency is treated .
Fortunately, vitamin A deficiency is rare in developed countries. Those who suspect their vitamin A intake is insufficient can try eating more vitamin-A-rich foods, such as organ meats, dairy, eggs, fish, dark leafy greens, and yellow-orange colored vegetables .
Unless diagnosed with a deficiency, most people should avoid taking vitamin A supplements. Thats because vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, which, when consumed in excess, can accumulate in the bodys fat stores and become toxic.
Symptoms of vitamin A toxicity can be serious and include nausea, headaches, skin irritation, joint and bone pain, and, in severe cases, even coma or death .
Vitamin Pills Are Not Miracle Cures
It is commonly believed that taking mega-doses of certain vitamins will act like medicine to cure or prevent certain ailments. For instance, vitamin C is suggested as a cure for the common cold, and vitamin E is widely promoted as a beneficial antioxidant to help prevent heart disease.
After extensive research, however, neither of these claims has been shown to be true. Large-scale studies have consistently shown little benefit in taking mega-doses of supplements. In fact, there is some evidence that taking high-dose supplements to prevent or cure major chronic diseases , may be harmful to your health.
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Which Vitamin Form Should You Choose
Vitamins and supplements come in many forms, like pills, liquids, or powders. The one you choose depends on how they work in your body and how you prefer to take them. For example, some only work in a dry extract form, such as a capsule or pill. Others work faster and are more effective as a liquid. Ask your pharmacist or doctor if you are confused about the right form to take.
Certain supplements come in pills because they stop working, or become dangerous, if they come in contact with the acid in your stomach. Some people need to take a liquid if they have trouble absorbing vitamins from a pill, or even if its hard for them to swallow capsules or tablets.
And not all forms of a nutrient are the same. For example, vitamin D supplements come as either vitamin D2 or vitamin D3. Also, there are several types of vitamin E. When in doubt, talk with your doctor about which supplement suits your needs.